April 24, 2018
2 Peter 1:8-12
8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. 10 So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 12 Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.
There’s a fine line between pastor humor and dad humor, and since I’m both, please indulge me for a joke I heard in a sermon as a kid that stuck with me:
The new pastor preached his first sermon at his new church, and it was a big hit. The entire congregation was inspired, and after the service everyone said, “Good sermon, pastor!”
The next Sunday, the congregation was excited to see what the pastor would preach next. But he stood in the pulpit and preached the exact same sermon as the week before, word for word.
No one really knew what to say, but because he was new, everyone still said, “Good sermon, pastor” as they left.
On his third Sunday, he again preached the same sermon, word for word. The congregation was confused and didn’t know what to do. They went and complained to the church board chair. She agreed there was a problem and promised to talk to him about it next week.
That fourth Sunday, he once again preached the exact same sermon, word for word. As soon as the service was over the church board chair went to him and said, “Pastor, we really like you, and we really liked that sermon the first four times we heard it. But don’t you think it’s time we heard your second sermon?”
“Yep,” said the pastor, “and I’ll preach my second sermon just as soon as y’all start doing what I said in my first sermon.”
I’ll confess a secret a lot of preachers wrestle with: to share something exciting and new from Scripture in our sermons. The temptation to say something “relevant” that makes the hearer say, “Wow, I’ve never seen it like that before.” And I think that temptation comes from all of us wanting to learn something new. “We’ve heard all this before,” we tend to think, “I’m ready for the next thing.”
However, Scripture doesn’t really give us that option. It’s creatively redundant.
Yesterday, Peter dropped a list of virtues to “supplement your faith with…” Today he tells us that the more we grow in those virtues, “the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And if we’re honest, as he keeps going, a lot of us are saying, “Heard it. Tell me something new.”
But then Peter drops the money line: “I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.”
When J.D. gave me this Substitute Sower gig for the Daily Text Nation, I needed a very short book of the New Testament to work through. I looked at Jude, Titus, 2 John, and 2 Peter. And you know what “new” thing I discovered about these Bible texts? These writers penned a serious chunk of the New Testament, and they all say pretty much the same thing in these letters. They each:
- State their authority to write (usually as a slave or apostle of Jesus).
- Call for the love, grace, and/or peace of Christ to be with the readers
- Warn of false teachers who could lead them away from Christ
- Encourage them to live a life of true faith in Christ
- Remind them that Jesus is going to come back and judge the world, so be ready.
Those plot points are just as relevant today as they were then. Maybe the reason they kept repeating the same message was because the root issues for their readers, then and today, is that believers keep “forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.” Isn’t that why we constantly need to seek repentance, constantly turning away from our sin and back to Christ?
Maybe this is the reason we plow through Bible study after Bible study, but never really seem to grow. Maybe this is why we struggle with “right belief, but a wrong life.” Maybe the reason we’re not ready for the “new and relevant thing” is because there isn’t one. The message is the same then as it is now: Sin is real, it’s effects are catastrophic, but grace abounds, all can be saved, and we can all be exemplars of perfect love.
Now, don’t you forget it.
Heavenly Father, a lot of the time I forget who you really are, what your Son is doing, and so miss the Holy Spirit at work. Keep me from looking for the “new thing” when I haven’t fully fixed my eyes on the one, true thing, which is your Son. In Jesus name. Amen.
What do you think about the idea of Scripture being redundant? Does it upset you or encourage you? Why? What is the Holy Spirit possibility for you in this?